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From “Yellow Peril” to “Model Minority”

  According to the records of the US Immigration Service, the Chinese first arrived in the United States in 1820, and the number of them was small. In 1848, gold mines were discovered in California, and in 1866, the United States began to build the first railway across the country. Since then, a large number of Chinese laborers have poured into the United States, which has become another dominant “racial issue” in American society. How to treat such a race, religion, culture and language that are completely different from the white Americans, the white Americans, who are frightened and terrified, are trying to find the answer in the words of “China Hands”. The so-called “China Hands” at that time included businessmen, diplomats and missionaries who had been to China. Most of their introductions were based on ethnocentrism and Western standards, spreading the Chinese people’s good deceit, autocracy, xenophobia, cruelty, infanticide, thinking and Abnormal libido, opium addiction, weak constitution, lack of faith, need for Christian influence and other negative characteristics. The United States also compares the Chinese with Indians and blacks, thinking that they are all heretics, low morality, barbaric, degenerate, and immature, but the Chinese are more threatening to the rule of white Americans, because the Chinese seem to be smarter and more Competitive and growing numbers. From 1850 to 1940, this so-called “China threat theory” abounded in self-literature writing about Chinese immigration, and was often tied to a specific issue, such as Chinese invasion attempts, Chinese immigration and white labor competition, the moral degeneration of the Chinese, and the racial degradation caused by intermarriage between whites and Chinese. American Chinese scholar William Wu vividly called this type of literary works “Yellow Peril Literature”.
  There are many literary masters who participated in the creation of “Yellow Peril Literature”, such as Brett Hart, Mark Twain, Ambrose Beers, Frank Norris and Jack London. They may have an honest heart, but they are not free from ideological shackles. Of particular note is Brett Hart’s poem “Pagan Chinaman” (1870). This poem tells the story of two white men who cheated in a poker game in an attempt to defeat A Xin, a Chinaman, only to be treated by A Xin in his own way. Although it seems fair that Hart portrays all three as liars, the fact that Ah Xin “destroyed” the two white people with “weird” methods has aroused great public anger among white readers. Whether it is the use of Chinese people on the streets of San Francisco Violent gangs of lynching, and members of the U.S. Congress discussing Chinese issues, all swear at “pagan Chinamen”. For a long time, “pagan Chinamen” has become synonymous with Chinese men in the United States. At the same time, the United States has Factors such as the disparity in the proportion of men and women in the development of the West and the anti-intermarriage led to the emergence of prostitutes in various countries. However, American newspapers, magazines and literary works only criticized Chinese prostitutes, which made prostitutes become the favorite of Chinese women in the United States. Typical image. The “Page Act” in 1875 therefore completely banned Chinese women from entering the country, lest the charming, depraved, shameless, and demon-like pagan women would harm white Americans. In 1882, the US Congress passed the “Chinese Exclusion Act” ”, the public opinion support provided by “Yellow Peril Literature” is even more difficult to describe. Interestingly, because it is difficult for white Americans to distinguish yellow people from different countries, with the arrival of immigrants from other Asian countries, the “yellow peril theory” has gradually been popularized. As a result, Chinese images are confused with images of other Asians.
  At the beginning of the 20th century, the “yellow peril theory” that was still popular gave birth to a new stereotype of Chinese men and women: Fu Manchu and Mrs. Long. Fu Manchu is a character written by the British writer Sax Romer and the leader of Chinatowns in the United Kingdom and the United States. He is extremely intelligent. He devoted his life to overthrowing white rule and destroying Western civilization. For this reason, he used all means such as science and supernatural power. Unfortunately, he is often represented by justice. Frustration with the human white detective Smith. As “the incarnation of the yellow peril”, Fu Manchu was popular because he catered to the reading expectations of white American readers. From “The Insidious Doctor Fu Manchu” (1913) to “Emperor Fu Manchu” (1959), Romer published a total of 17 Fu Manchu novels, which have been distributed in the millions, and have been adapted into films, TV shows and comic strips. , thus firmly establishing this negative Asian model in the consciousness of white Americans. In the writings of white Americans, Japanese and Japanese immigrants during World War II, Chinese communists and Chinese immigrant communists during the Cold War, Vietnamese and Vietnamese immigrants during the Vietnam War, Japanese businessmen and Japanese immigrant businessmen during the rise of Japan’s economy, The shadow of Fu Manchu can be glimpsed in the images of successful Asian immigrants and other figures. The image of Mrs. Long first appeared in the novel “Fu Manchu’s Daughter” (1931). The name is Hualushui. She is the daughter of Fu Manchu and a Russian woman. She has amazing beauty, wisdom and evil. Kidnapping, poisoning and other means, determined to complete his father’s unfinished evil mission. Paradoxically, she had an irresistible attraction to white men. The reason why this type of villain image is collectively called “Dragon Lady” is attributed to the cartoonist Milton Kanif. From 1934, Caniff published the Chicago Tribune comic strip “Terry and the Pirates,” in which Mrs. Long was the villain, with “exotic sensuality, sensuality to white men, and a sinister nature. “. “Terry and the Pirates” was once serialized in 175 newspapers at the same time, with a circulation of nearly 20 million copies. Since then, Mrs. Long has become a household name. When white American authors portrayed Asian strong women, they all refer to this prototype.
  From 1925 to 1932, the American writer Earl Del Biggs published 6 novels with Charlie Chen as the protagonist, which gave birth to a well-known Chinese image of “law-abiding, friendly and kind”. Charlie Chen was born in Hawaii. Although he is an ABC, he is portrayed as a foreigner. He speaks stubborn English, is full of grammatical errors, and often quotes Chinese aphorisms. He struggled from a servant to become a detective. Under the leadership, rely on wisdom, patience and polite behavior to detect various cases and maintain social order. In the face of himself, his words and deeds are always humble and submissive, and he never gets angry even when confronted with racist prejudice and insults. In the 1930s and 1940s, Charlie Chen’s novels were adapted into countless stage, radio and TV programs, including 48 movies, which made this Chinese image widely accepted by American society. We can’t help but ask, since the “yellow peril theory” has become part of the collective unconscious of white Americans, how can Charlie Chen gain popularity? In other words, Charlie Chen’s humility and submissiveness shows that he has been appeased and domesticated to a certain extent: in other words, he could have been savage and out of control. Comparing the images of Fu Manchu and Charlie Chen, we can find that the message conveyed by the white ruling class is that those who follow me will prosper, and those who oppose me will perish. The dissemination and solidification of the image of Charlie Chen invisibly encourages and even forces Chinese Americans to cultivate “good qualities” such as loyalty, meekness, and obedience to authority, thereby gaining a foothold in the acute racial conflicts in American society.
  Of course, as a positive example of Chinese Americans, Charlie Chen still stands today. The more important reason is that since World War II, changes in the international situation and the domestic situation in the United States have made the argument that Chinese Americans are a “model minority” overwhelm the “yellow peril theory”. “. The Pearl Harbor incident on December 7, 194q led to dramatic changes in Sino-US relations. The “yellow peril” of the past became an ally of the United States against Japan. His descendants were labelled the “yellow peril” and sent to internment camps. Chinese-American writers Liu Yichang and Huang Yuxue took advantage of this trend to publish the best-selling books “Tiger Father and Tiger Son” (1943) and “Chinese Woman Old Five” (1945), respectively, consolidating the image of loyal Chinese Americans. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1943 legally recognized Chinese and American Chinese. In addition, the domestic political turmoil caused by the civil rights movement in the 1960s and the economic success of Asia and Asian Americans in the 1980s prompted mainstream discourse in the United States to shape Chinese Americans and other Asian immigrants to a higher level. “U.S. News & World Report” published an article on December 26, 1966, calling Chinatown a “safe haven of law and order,” where residents never complained, and never took to the streets to protest over hardship and social inequality , but relying on hard work and educational investment, self-reliant and successful, and thus a role model for blacks and other militant minorities. At the time when the civil rights movement was at its climax, this article elevated the Chinese,

Belittling black people, “Sima Zhao’s heart is well known to passers-by”, but it played a key role in the concept of “model minority”. Equally critical is that in a public speech in the 1980s, U.S. President Ronald Reagan praised economically successful Asian immigrants and their descendants as practitioners and defenders of America’s “fundamental values.” However, it is surprising that President Reagan actually said that “our political system” needs “your values ​​and your hard work”, which shows the deep-rooted logic of racial antagonism in mainstream American culture.
  The positive image of Chinese women corresponding to Charlie Chen, the positive image of Chinese men, is the lotus flower. The origin of the name has not been verified, but it includes specific images such as Chinese dolls, Japanese geishas, ​​war brides and Vietnamese prostitutes. These images were created and spread because of the three wars the United States fought in Asia: World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. American soldiers stationed in the Far East had extensive and close contact with local Asian women: either had sex with prostitutes, geishas and barmaids, or married local women. Based on their own experiences, they summed up a set of images of oriental women different from the “yellow peril”: in the worst case, oriental women are still prostitutes, but they may also be geishas, ​​a sex slave who knows how to please men. In the case of a perfect wife and housewife. The new version gradually spread to the United States, initially used only to refer to the war bride from Japan in 1946, and later extended to all Asian women in the United States and abroad. In the process, the popular musical “Miss Saigon” ” and the film “The World of Suzie Wong” and other cultural texts played a contributing role. Compared with the early images of prostitutes and Mrs. Long, the lotuses are also portrayed as sexy stunners obsessed with white men, but they are no longer a threat to American society. They are docile, lovely, loyal and credible. By serving white American men wholeheartedly, It has played a role in maintaining white domination and the status quo of society. In this regard, it is no different from Charlie Chen.
  For the evolution of the stereotyped images of Chinese men and women in American history, we must rely on the insights of Edward Said, a well-known Palestinian-American theorist, to gain a correct understanding. First of all, according to Said’s theoretical logic in Oriental Studies, we can fully regard the above stereotypes as part of the discourse of American Orientalism: Chinese inside and outside the United States are conceived as self-identity in race, culture and politics. In the sense of the other, it doesn’t matter whether it is an American citizen or not, the Chinese will always be inferior foreigners. Therefore, although the positive connotation of “model minority” seems to trump the “yellow peril”, the two are essentially “foreigners with two sides of one body”; the former belong to friendly and kind foreigners, while the latter belong to hostile and vicious foreigners.
  Second, although the image of Chinese Americans has changed from a “yellow peril” to a “model minority” with the banning of the “Chinese Exclusion Act”, both are rooted in the ideology of racism and Orientalism in the course of American history. and actions, and in turn justify the latter’s rationality and necessity. The two seem to be opposites, but in fact they are structurally related. According to the changes in the domestic and international situation in the United States, the two can be converted into each other. For example, when Sino-US relations deteriorate, Chinese Americans may become a “yellow peril”: when the domestic racial politics in the United States requires, Chinese Americans still have to play a “model minority”.
  Third, the different characteristics of male and female stereotypes suggest that the construction of American Orientalist discourse simultaneously resorts to racial discourse, gender discourse, and the intersection of the two, so efforts to subvert Orientalism, racism, and gender oppression must be coordinated. .
  Finally, it should be emphasized that since the 1960s, Chinese cultural workers in the United States have created a large number of brand-new Chinese American images, posing a challenge and confrontation to the hegemony of American Orientalist discourse. The Chinese should continue to “make their voices heard” with stronger decibels.

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